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Since late August 2017, there have been renewed allegations of systematic human rights abuses by Myanmar (also ‘Burma’) security forces conducting counter-insurgency and so-called ‘clearance operations’ against Rohingya militants in Rakhine State. The security operations followed coordinated insurgent attacks by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) on police and army posts, as well as alleged ARSA attacks on civilians, and have resulted in an ongoing humanitarian crisis in western Myanmar and southern Bangladesh. On 28 September 2017, the United Nations (UN) Secretary-General, António Guterres, described the situation as ‘the world’s fastest-developing refugee emergency and a humanitarian and human rights nightmare’. 

These developments have heightened demands from international human rights groups and non-government organisations (NGOs) for Western countries to withdraw their re-engagement with Myanmar’s military (also ‘Tatmadaw’) and for the UN Security Council to impose an arms embargo on Myanmar. The Myanmar Government has repeatedly denied claims of systematic abuses of human rights against the Rohingya Muslim population in Rakhine State, including allegations of ‘crimes against humanity’ and ‘ethnic cleansing’. 

In light of the allegations of human rights abuses, the recent decision by the United Kingdom to suspend defence cooperation with the Myanmar military and calls by NGOs for the Australian Government to do the same, this quick guide provides a snapshot of current international defence engagement with Myanmar by the following countries—Australia, the United States, the United Kingdom, China, Russia, and India. 

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